In perfect conditions at Mill Road on Sunday Dundalk edged home against a limited but very physical Carlow side.
It was a low scoring first half with both sides unable to gain a stranglehold on proceedings. Having both missed their first opportunities Carlow struck first with an easy penalty in front of the posts. However straight from the kick off Dundalk equalised when Carlow were penalised for obstruction. Dodd slotted over the penalty from out wide on the left.
But Carlow took the lead again when their fullback shaped up for a drop goal on his right boot but dummied and stuck it over with his left foot. Dodd replied from distance when Dundalk scrum half Johnny Williams was taken out.
Indeed Williams had the best scoring chance in the first half when he made a break off a ruck outside the 22. With the last man to beat he tried to play Scully in on the inside but the pass didn’t go to hand and the chance was gone.
At 6-6 at half time the match was evenly poised and could go either way. Dundalk would need to up the ante if they were to get through.
But again neither side could get on top and with twenty minutes to go Dundalk were dealt a hammer blow. Carlow attacked into the 22 but knocked on, with an advantage to play Fa’atau passed to Naylor who in turn knocked on.
The ref blew his whistle as no advantage accrued but Naylor was hit late and high by a Carlow player. Naylor retaliated and saw a red card for his troubles.
Carlow struck over the resulting penalty and Dundalk were three points down but more importantly a man down. Each player would need to lift his game in order to overturn the deficit.
They did just that with man of the match Dorian and Fa’atau carrying the ball relentlessly and Meegan tackling any carlow player that moved.
The breakthrough came with ten minutes to go. Off a lineout in the Carlow 22 Dundalk won one of their few line outs all day and after a couple of pick and drives released the backs. Dodd skipped to scully before wrapping around and hitting McGee wide.
He was able to draw in the last man and play Lynch in the corner. Dodd stuck over an important touchline conversion which extended Dundalk’s lead to four points. Dundalk saw out the last few nervous minutes and when Dodd struck over his third penalty they could not be beaten.
So its three semi-final appearances on the trot and Dundalk will be hoping to learn from their experiences of the last couple of years to see them into the final this time around.
But they will need to tighten up on their set piece as the line out was a cause for concern as well as the number of turnovers conceded.
It was a great occasion in the clubhouse with a roast beef salad laid on afterwards for supporters and there were songs sung till late in the evening.
Dundalk have been drawn to play Tullow in the Semi-Finals in North Kildare this Sunday, April 10 . Kick off at 3pm.
DUNDALK: S McGee ( c ), S Murphy, C Scully (G Lynch), MJ McKevitt, D Guest, J Dodd, J Williams, E Fa’atau, M Rowntree, P Meegan, G Whately, D Fearon, R Donnelly (S Soraghan), C McDonald (R Naylor), K Dorian. Subs not used: J McGahon, R McArdle.
The following are the latest 501 winners; Week 17: €501 - Finbar Griffin, €100 – Conor Connolly and Jim Smyth. Week 18: €501 – Declan Murphy, €100 – Ene Fa’atau and Athal Myles. Week 19: €501 – Anthony Woods, €100 Finnian Kelleher and Graham Purcell. Week 20: €501 – Peter Malone, €100 Eugene O’Gorman and Judith Bradley. Week 21: €501 – Patrick Hughes, €100 – Pat Butler and John Kieran. Week 22: €501 – Martin Fearon, €100 – James Tiernan and Henry Fearon.